(Alliance News) - Stock prices in Europe were lower at midday on Wednesday, after positive data from the US on Tuesday threw interest rate cuts into question.

The FTSE 100 index was down 19.58 points, 0.2%, at 8,234.60. The FTSE 250 was down 112.26 points, 0.5%, at 20,593.01, and the AIM All-Share was down 3.43 points, 0.4%, at 804.93.

The Cboe UK 100 was down 0.3% at 821.69, the Cboe UK 250 was down 0.7% at 18041.76, and the Cboe Small Companies was down marginally at 16,880.42.

In European equities on Wednesday, the CAC 40 in Paris was down 0.9%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was down 0.6%.

"The FTSE 100 started on the back foot on Wednesday after the mood darkened through the course of the day yesterday," said AJ Bell investment analyst Dan Coatsworth.

"Mixed trading in the US followed a positive reading of US consumer sentiment which, in turn, pushed back on expectations for rate cuts."

There was some positive data on Tuesday, which showed that US consumers appeared less gloomy about the job market and future business conditions in May.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index posted a surprise increase this month to 102.0, despite analyst expectations of a decline from April's 97.5 level.

Eyes are now on Friday's core personal consumption expenditures index.

The numbers are expected to show that the core personal consumption expenditures index, the Federal Reserve's preferred US inflation gauge, rose 2.8% year-on-year in April, the same pace of growth as in March.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2748 at midday on Wednesday in London, down compared to USD1.2768 at the equities close on Tuesday. The euro stood at USD1.0848, lower against USD1.0855. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY157.26, higher compared to JPY157.09.

In the FTSE 100, Ocado was the biggest loser at midday, down 5.5%. St James's Place lost 2.2%.

Ocado's stint in the FTSE 100 is set to end with another technology firm, Darktrace, set to replace it in the top flight, according to indicative index changes by FTSE Russell on Tuesday.

Final index review findings are released on June 5, using data from a day earlier.

Based on closing on data as of Friday, grocer and warehouse technology firm Ocado is set for the FTSE 100 chop, with wealth manager St James's Place also set for relegation.

In the FTSE 250, Pets at Home rose 3.9%.

The Wilmslow, England-based pet supply retailer said pretax profit fell 14% to GBP105.7 million in the financial year that ended March 28, from GBP122.5 million the year before.

Revenue climbed 5.2% to GBP1.48 billion from GBP1.40 billion.

Pets At Home maintained its final dividend at 8.3 pence per share, bringing its total payout to an unchanged 12.8p. The company said it plans to conduct a further GBP25 million share buyback, after the GBP100 million in repurchases completed over the past two years.

Royal Mail owner International Distributions Services rose 3.6%, after it agreed to a GBP3.57 billion takeover.

The offer has been made through a special purpose acquisition vehicle owned by J&T Capital Partners as and EP Corporate Group as, a subsidiary of EP Investments SARL.

EP Investments is a Luxembourg-based company founded by Czech billionaire businessman Daniel Kretinsky, who also serves as its chair.

IDS Chair Keith Williams said: "IDS has the potential to become a leading international logistics player. Both the IDS board and EP are acutely aware of their responsibilities to IDS and particularly to the unique heritage of Royal Mail and its obligations as the designated universal service provider of postal services in the UK."

Elsewhere in London, Foresight Sustainable Forestry surged 30%.

It said it has agreed to a GBP167 million takeover by Averon Park Ltd, a firm seeking opportunities to commit capital to trading businesses.

Averon Park offered 97 pence per share to the forestry investment trust managed by Foresight Group LLP, a premium of 33% to Foresight's closing price of 73.0p each on Tuesday.

Foresight Sustainable's directors consider the terms of the offer fair and reasonable, having been advised by brokers Stifel.

On London's AIM, UK Oil & Gas rose 23%.

The oil and gas firm with assets in UK and Turkey said that its planned strategic Dorset and Yorkshire Hydrogen Storage projects have received a letter of support from Summit Energy Evolution. Summit Energy is a wholly owned subsidiary of major Japanese trading conglomerate Sumitomo.

Stocks in New York were called lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 index, and the Nasdaq Composite are all called down 0.6%.

Brent oil was quoted at USD84.52 a barrel at midday in London on Wednesday, up from USD83.56 late Tuesday. Gold was quoted at USD2,347.00 an ounce, lower against USD2,359.03.

Still to come on Wednesday's economic calendar, there is a German inflation reading at 1300 BST.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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